Objectives: This study was designed to test the accuracy of nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) imaging as a noninvasive technique for estimating right ventricular mass in normal subjects and in patients with primary pulmonary hypertension.
Background: An accurate means of noninvasively estimating right ventricular mass may allow better characterization of the degree of right-sided pressure or volume overload caused by underlying cardiac or pulmonary diseases.
Methods: End-diastolic short-axis electrocardiogram (ECG)-gated spin echo NMR images of the heart were obtained in vivo in 13 patients with primary pulmonary hypertension and 10 normal adult volunteers. Both right and left ventricular mass were computed by summing the myocardial slice volumes over all slices spanning the myocardium and multiplying by myocardial density. This technique of myocardial mass determination was verified by imaging 10 calf hearts and comparing the NMR-determined right and left myocardial mass with the actual mass determined by weighing the right and left ventricles.
Results: In the calf heart study, an excellent correlation was obtained between the directly measured ventricular mass and the NMR-calculated mass, for both the right and the left ventricle. Patients with primary pulmonary hypertension had an elevated right ventricular mass index compared with that of normal subjects (62.69 +/- 8.72 g/m2 vs. 23.32 +/- 1.36 g/m2, p < 0.0005). There was no significant difference in left ventricular mass index between the two groups. Both mean intraobserver and inter-observer variability in myocardial mass determination were low. Linear regression analysis between right ventricular mass index and mean pulmonary artery pressure was significant (r = 0.75, p < 0.003).
Conclusions: Electrocardiogram-gated spin echo NMR imaging of the heart may be used for quantitating right ventricular mass in normal subjects and in patients with primary pulmonary hypertension, in whom it may also provide an alternative noninvasive technique for estimating mean pulmonary artery pressure.